Committee hears hours of concerns, ideas about how to help more SC children
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Figuring out how to make South Carolina better for its children is a top concern for so many parents, educators, and leaders across the state.
Over the last few weeks, a group of lawmakers, state agency leaders, and South Carolinians have been traveling the state and hearing hours and hours of concerns and ideas to try to answer that question.
The Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children, better known as the Children’s Committee, wrapped up its annual fall hearing tour Tuesday with two meetings in Columbia. In recent weeks, they had held hearings in Florence, Charleston, and Greenville.
“Some of the key concerns, the key questions — we’ve heard the same thing everywhere we’ve been,” Rep. Raye Felder, R – York, said.
Felder is one of six legislators on the committee, who come from both parties and chambers of the State House.
During Tuesday morning’s meeting, they listened for three-and-a-half hours to speakers on what they believe are some of the biggest issues facing children, which included homelessness and gun violence.
“Gun violence is the No. 1 killer of our children. Just like we have seatbelt laws, we need your help to keep our children safe,” Dr. Elizabeth Mack, the president of the South Carolina chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said.
“I’m tired,” Connie Johnson said about the gun violence she said plagues her Orangeburg neighborhood. “I’m tired not only for myself but for my community, for the children of my community.”
Others said what’s on their mind is supporting LGBTQ+ youth, protecting children who are abuse victims, and improving outcomes at school, including safety and teacher retention.
“We stand out like a sore thumb compared to other southeastern states when it comes to their max class sizes,” Patrick Kelly of the Palmetto State Teachers Association said.
Some of the committee’s lawmakers said they are already working on new bills for the next legislative session based on what they have heard recently during their tour.
“Healthy meals at schools, being able to furnish breakfast and lunch for all the students, and that is legislation that I’m going to introduce this year,” Sen. Katrina Shealy, R – Lexington, said.
New laws that have come out of this committee in the past include paid parental leave for state employees and expansions of foster care and kinship care.
What they can’t address with legislation might be able to be fixed within state agencies.
Leaders of state departments like Social Services and Juvenile Justice also take part.
“I think it’s always great to have everyone at the same table, to talk about it, to hear it, to allow the public to give their comments and their suggestions,” Felder said.
People who were not able to attend one of these meetings but have thoughts to share can email a written testimony by Friday to committee members at email@example.com.
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